Strother Bullins, Reviews Editor, Newbay Media Av/Pro Audio Group From an applications standpoint, the DL32R covers the broadest range of audio tasks in the simplest way of any single product I’ve reviewed, ever. Yes, the DL32R inherently requires a systems-wide commitment to its architecture, but that’s not much more complicated than buying an iPad, interfacing with the 3U rack-mount chassis for its physical I/O and learning a well-designed app and wireless network system.
Considering its feature set and Mackie’s presence in the industry, the DL32R is poised to be the next big thing in all-inclusive audio capture, control, mixing and production at $1,999 street (add iPad, mics, cables, powered loudspeakers, and that’s about all for a complete, super-capable mixing/recording system).
While totally pro environments offer a proper front-of-house position, most venues hosting live music do not. Most don’t provide a full-time audio engineer either. This is simply the reality of club, small venue, DIY touring and worship-based audio jobs; “mixers” are often found simultaneously mixing drinks for customers or attempting to enjoy the music and/or message while managing the mix, and possibly playing in the band. The DL32R unchains these folks from traditional mix locations, allowing them to adjust levels from wherever they need or desire to be. Better yet, the DL32R offers more I/O than the first two DL Series mixers, making it a viable option for acts with substantial input lists and for more sophisticated venues.
This is all accomplished quite powerfully—for example, with up to 32 channel mixes, complete with multitrack recording and playback (currently 24x24 direct-to-disk with 32x32 coming soon); 14 XLR analog outputs; up to 10 iOS-controlled personal monitor mixes; 6 matrix busses (providing auxiliary mixes for extra listening spaces such as outside club decks, church nursery cry rooms, etc.); a super-flexible patching matrix; and most every feature you’d expect from a fully-professional live mixing digital platform including being Dante-ready.
Mackie’s DL32R and its iPad mixer screen. While Mackie doesn’t really tout the DL32R’s recording and music production features, creative end users will soon be using it to record complete performances for subsequent production and mixdown, largely thanks to the Master Fader app, a free download from the iTunes App Store. These same features of Master Fader allow for virtual soundchecks (such as those our industry’s biggest touring pros rely on) and lots more. Short of providing the necessary transducers on either end—for capture and monitoring— plus drive or CPU, the DL32R can be a recording/mixing silver bullet for many.
See all the features of the DL32R here: dl32r.mackie.com
BENEFITS IN USE
I brought the DL32R out for several live sound events, including standard club gigs and a hands-on presentation to a contemporary house-of-worship (HOW) in the market for a new digital mixer. In use, demonstrations and discussions, the benefits of moving around the venue while tweaking, tuning and mixing were more than impressive: they turned the concept of live mixing into something completely new and exciting.
For most every question I fielded— whether I had the DL32R at a gig or at the church—my answers began with a “yes.” “Can I can mix my own monitors with my phone?” Yes, with the MyFader app, which is also free. “I can sit with my kids during the service?” Yes, if you want.
A “no” came when asked, “Can we use it without a router?” However, the core benefits of the DL32R’s Wi-Fi-centric design weren’t lost on anyone.
The immediate value of mixing untethered was thrilling, though Mackie had previously provided this ability in its DL1608 16-channel and DL806 8-channel mixers. By doubling the DL1608’s inputs to 32, upgrading its mic preamps (via Mackie’s new flagship Onyx+ amp, currently found only in the DL32R), and offering very flexible patching options—for example, one input to multiple channels or switchable A/B inputs per channel for detailed comparisons—the DL Series gains its truly pro model in the DL32R.
Most importantly, I think the DL32R sounds great and is straightforward in its use. It’s clean as a whistle, I/O is near-infinitely configurable and routable, and its EQs and effects are good and will continue to improve—after all, Master Fader is a free app via download, currently in Version 3.0.2.
Are there any negatives to the DL32R’s iPad-centric design? No, not unless you’re opposed to working within an iOS architecture—complete with its limited-sized GUI and mandatory “additional purchase” of at least one iPad.
However, I believe the DL32R’s iOS nature offers more benefits than drawbacks: most every modern music- centric/tech-savvy pro inherently knows iOS “flow” already; the Master Fader app is refreshingly simple compared to many digital mixers with incorporated touchscreen and proprietary OS; and any user with an iPad can provide and work with his own work surface. Further, the recording industry has been largely conjoined with Apple and Mac OS for decades now; only live sound is relatively new to arriving at this end—a consumer product-dependent reality for live sound production.
Ultimately I’d wish for Android OS support, too, at least for control of personal monitor mix features; currently the DL32R is iOS compatible-only. Most notably in houses-of-worship, this means an inevitable number of volunteers and musicians that won’t be able to use their own smartphones with the DL32R; in the HOW-based demonstration, I was told just that.
In the late Nineties, I was thrilled to discover the groundbreaking features of a Mackie d8b digital console and HDR24/96 multitrack system. Today, the DL32R represents the same kind of leap forward for the budget-restricted audio professional, yet this time it’s in the live sound realm. While I generally shy away from labeling any product a “game changer,” the DL32R certainly hints at becoming one.
Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s Reviews Editor, Av/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist and club-level sound reinforcement wrangler. firstname.lastname@example.org